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North Dakota Capitol notebook: Hustling to crossover break

The North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck. Photo illustration by Troy Becker

BISMARCK — North Dakota lawmakers are grinding through a final batch of bills before hitting a mid-session break.

Legislators have until Friday, Feb. 22, to pass bills to the opposite chamber for consideration, a deadline known as "crossover." Facing a heavy workload, House lawmakers have been holding extended floor sessions in recent days, arriving for a 7:30 a.m. session Friday.

House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, hoped his chamber could wrap up its work Thursday afternoon.

The Senate is scheduled to finish Wednesday afternoon after conducting morning floor sessions during the first three days next week.

More than 180 bills and resolutions were awaiting House action as of the end of the day Thursday. The Senate had 76 bills and resolutions on its plate at that time.

Lawmakers have introduced a total of 961 measures this session, leaving about a quarter on the table in the final week before crossover.

Lawmakers are scheduled to return from recess Feb. 27.

House approves security cost disclosures

North Dakota House lawmakers approved a bill requiring the state Highway Patrol to disclose its costs for protecting the governor and lieutenant governor Thursday.

Proponents of House Bill 1363, championed by Finley Republican Rep. Bill Devlin, a former newspaper publisher, said it would not threaten the safety of the state’s top officials but would instead give lawmakers and the public an idea of the security’s budget burden. The head of the Highway Patrol has opposed the bill, arguing it could open the door to more detailed information coming to light.

Devlin previously said there’s an “unprecedented” level of security for Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, who came into office at the tail end of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in late 2016. The bill was amended since its introduction to require quarterly disclosure of costs to protect and transport all elected officials.

The bill passed in a 58-33, short of the threshold to enact its emergency clause. It now moves to the Senate.

Lawmakers expected to vote on ethics bills

The North Dakota House and Senate are expected to vote on bills implementing the state constitution's ethics rules in the coming days.

Special committees formed to examine legislation codifying Measure 1 have advanced bills in both chambers, but budget-writers must consider the proposals before they move to the floor for a vote.

Measure 1 added anti-corruption language to the state constitution, including a ban on lobbyist gifts to public officials, new transparency requirements and an ethics commission that could investigate malfeasance.

House rejects abortion resolution

The North Dakota House rejected a resolution urging the state's courts from referencing the landmark U.S. Supreme Court abortion case Roe v. Wade.

Devlin said neither the Legislature nor the state Supreme Court has constitutional authority to disregard decisions from the country's highest court.

The resolution's chief backer, Minot Republican Rep. Jeff Hoverson, said his proposal "is toothless." He invoked Jesus and the allied invasion of Normandy during WWII in defense of his resolution.

"Roe v. Wade is not Hitler, but it's no less evil," Hoverson, a Lutheran pastor, said before the House defeated the resolution in a 60-30 vote.

Shared parenting bill passes

The North Dakota House easily passed a shared parenting bill Wednesday.

House Bill 1496 requires judges to consider awarding “shared or equal residential responsibility” and explain its decision awarding or denying the request. It defines “shared residential responsibility” as each parent having residential responsibility for a child at least 35 percent of the time.

The North Dakota Senate rejected a similar bill two years ago. Voters in 2014 rejected a ballot measure creating a law for equal parenting rights in child custody cases.

Bike restrictions bill fails

The House rejected a bill Thursday requiring bicyclists to wear reflective clothing while riding on highways, streets and roads at night.

Rep. LaurieBeth Hager, D-Fargo, said the House Transportation Committee was concerned the bill could transfer legal responsibility for motor vehicle crashes to bicycle riders.

House Bill 1506 failed 83-9.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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